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Posted: 13 September 2010 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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"The system should be robust enough to handle it. Your system assumes that every record uses the same name, in the same order, spelled the same way, every time. “

That’s really not how it works…
It’s keyed by number. At least in my country. You want to communicate with the tax office, you give your tax file number. They don’t give a shit if you spell your name different every day: it won’t mess up their operations at all because the number is the only thing that matters.

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Posted: 13 September 2010 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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A good system is designed to operate even when the data hasn’t been properly maintained.

Garbage in, garbage out, Dave.  It doesn’t matter how good your system is.

And what happens when you want to do a mail merge using the HR system

You have a full/legal name field and a preferred name field.  Problem solved.

I’m sure an HR person could come up with several dozen other examples of instances where they need to differentiate between given and family names.

Our employee master file has over 100,000 records in it.  The HR department gave up using names to differentiate records long ago, if it ever did.  When they do have to use names, the current first-middle-last name system fails them because they are dealing with people who have five or six names, and they are unsure which is the “first” or “last” name.  It causes them to have to do multiple searches.  And God help them if the name is misspelled or spelled differently on either (or both) ends (very common with Arabic names).  This is where a soundex search on a single field would come in handy.

If we came from a culture where there is no concept of a first and last name our HR department would still operate as efficiently as any other.

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Posted: 13 September 2010 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Okay, what happens when you have an employee record keyed to a tax file number and the name “Yuling Liu,” preferred name “Yuling” and you get a piece of correspondence that is not from the tax office, hence no tax file number, and referring to employee “Lucy Liu.” Wouldn’t it be so much easier to look at a list of surnames and figure out who the relevant employee?

My point is that you don’t know to what use the data will be put, nor can you anticipate every type of interface with the system. It is better to have a robust system of metadata that can be used to accommodate the inevitable issues that will arise in the real world.

(And I’m not disputing that employee records should be indexed by tax number and not by name—although indexing by the company’s employee number is probably a wiser security precaution to prevent identity theft—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have metadata on surnames and given names for the simple reason that our society differentiates between the two and there will be cases when you need to do so in your HR records as well.)

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Posted: 13 September 2010 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Wouldn’t it be so much easier to look at a list of surnames and figure out who the relevant employee?

No, it would be easier to type in “Liu” in the search field and click the Search button.

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